The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Public Schools SS/HS Initiative created a Juvenile Justice Action Team to develop a strategic plan for enhancing inter-agency collaboration to stem the flow of students from schools to juvenile detention. The strategic plan comprised numerous action steps, for example:
- Defining challenging disruptive behavior on school grounds
- Identifying the nature of referrals from schools to juvenile detention or probation
- Reviewing suspension, Special Education, and administrative policies
- Determining how to handle minor infractions within the school community rather than via a police report
- Mapping gaps in existing services
- Designing and implementing the pilot project Prevention Intervention Program for Youth (PIPY), aimed at providing prevention and early intervention services to young people who are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system
The PIPY pilot project has been implemented at one of the largest middle schools in the district, which has a high number of referrals to juvenile detention. The program’s components include (1) two caseworkers hired to assist youth transitioning back to school and to assist parents and guardians in navigating the system and finding appropriate behavioral services in the community, (2) wrap-around services for youth not currently receiving assistance, (3) increased communication, services, and support for youth released from detention, and (4) improved tracking of students and communication among the school district, the Juvenile Detention Center, Probation and Parole, and the Courts. In addition, a school-based team comprising staff from juvenile probation, juvenile detention, school administration, SROs (school resource officers), counselors, and social workers meets monthly. The regularity of these meetings helps to ensure that outreach efforts are consistent and originate from a team-based approach. The diversity of the team’s professional backgrounds contributes to a holistic outlook that addresses the students’ mental health, behavioral, and academic needs.
Bookings for delinquent acts occurring on PIPY pilot school grounds have decreased 53 percent. The school administration also reports that the number of repeat offenders has gone down from previous years—a change that they attribute to on-site caseworkers preventing violence through conflict resolution and immediate referral to prevention programs.